Saturday, February 16, 2008

Judge Removed

A Judge of the Shreveport City Court was ordered removed from office and prohibited from seeking judicial office for five years by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The proceedings against the judge were initiated by an anonymous complaint. The judge suffered from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain and fatigue disorder. She had used prescription medication for the condition for an extended period of time that caused her to be inattentive and confused while on the bench. Allegations of excessive absenteeism, using court personnel for personal matters and improper ex parte communications also were sustained. The judge had testified that she was now engaged in alternative therapies for her pain, including acupuncture, massage therapy and yoga. The court found compelling evidence that the judge was "impaired while performing judicial duties" and had demonstrated an "inability to handle her docket properly."

There is a concurring opinion that would not find clear and convincing evidence of drug dependency. The concurrence notes that there were several evaluations of the judge that did not find such an addiction, including an evaluation from an "addictionologist." The evidence below did not include the testimony of a physician. Rather, the evidence established that the judge was in a "highly stressful job situation, and that she did not appear to be taking very good care of her overall wellness." Nonetheless, the concurrence found sufficient evidence of impaired performance of judicial duties to support the result.

There also appears to have been some personal antagonism between the judge and court personnel, including a deputy marshal (see footnote 11 for a description of the deputy being photographed by cell phone gesturing at a portrait of the judge with his middle finger raised). (Mike Frisch)

February 16, 2008 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Puppy Story

The Florida Third District Court of Appeal reversed a plaintiff's jury verdict in a slip-and-fall case as a result of trial misconduct by plaintiff's counsel. Counsel engaged in a variety of improper actions, that began during voir dire, where his questions began "setting the stage for his trial strategy: impugning the [defendant] and its trial counsel." This approach culminated, as it often does in such a trial approach, with an over the top closing argument that accused defense counsel of hiding evidence and fraudulently preventing evidence from being admitted without any basis in the record. He also told the "Puppy Story" (quoted in the opinion) in closing argument, which the court characterized as an improper Golden Rule argument. (Mike Frisch)

February 16, 2008 in Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (5)

Deer Hunter Redux: Was He Licking His Lips Like Roger Clemens While Splaining to Park Ranger?

I still cannot get that Deer Hunter bar discipline case out of my head.  I was not satiated by adding bad pun comments after Mike's post.

How bad a lawyer do you have to be that you cannot talk your way -- legitimately -- out of an investigation into this?  He must have changed his story four times, or licked his lips constantly while he and Boo BooLogo_random_1_2 recounted the tale to Ranger Smith. 

I can just see Jon Lovitz in the role of the lying lawyer:  "the license belongs to my wife, eh, Morgan Fairchild, yeah that's the ticket."

It says something about our society that the lawyer could be in big trouble, and possibly not be a lawyer anymore, for abetting the shooting of a deer -- while the Vice President is still the Vice President after shooting a lawyer.  Hmm.

[Alan Childress]

February 16, 2008 in Lawyers & Popular Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Deer Hunter

No, not a remake of the De Niro film. A complaint filed by the Illinois ARDC alleges that the attorney was deer hunting with a friend. After the friend had killed a deer, the attorney gave the friend his son's permit so that he might continue to hunt. He then falsely informed an investigator that the son had shot and killed the deer. He thereafter pleaded guilty to criminal charges of obstructing a peace officer and the unlawful loaning of a permit.

Any thoughts on a possible sanction? (Mike Frisch)

February 15, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Visionary Minimalist and the Timid Mystic

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

A friend forwarded to me this morning a link to Cass Sunstein's essay in The New Republic about BarackSunstein Obama's unique appeal - he is a visionary minimalist who somehow manages to advance his own view of the right, while simultaneously crediting the good faith of those with whom he disagrees.  Once again, Professor Sunstein (right) hits the nail on the head.  Damn.  He has no right to be so smart.  (And a mutual friend who was an all-American collegiate tennis player told me he is a killer squash player to boot.)

I gave a talk yesterday in our Faculty Enrichment Series, in which I put forth my tentative hypothesis on those seemingly infinitely contestable concepts like justice, ones that we cannot define yet know when we are right and others are wrong.  Because I'm prone to make allusions to things like the Kabbalah and the Tao in exploring very, very difficult and elusive concepts, one of my colleagues called me something that left me delighted and chuckling about it for the rest of the day:  he said I was a "timid mystic."

I'll simply say that "visionary minimalism" is consistent with "timid mysticism" or what I would call my "minimalist monotheism."  Minimalist monotheism only says that there's something there (the Kabbalahists call it in Hebrew "Ein Sof" or "there is no end") that is a singularity or unity beyond any ability to say what it is (Wittgenstein would then say we should be silent, right?).  To borrow from Robert Cover in Nomos and Narrative, it is the DNA, so to speak, of all of our moral intuition.  Recognizing that DNA in other moral agents, we should simultaneously heed our own moral voice as to the possibility of universals, be cautious about our ability to articulate those universals, and listening carefully to our opponents, as Sunstein says, "see[], almost always respect[], and not infrequently accept[] their deepest commitments."  That's a hard place to live, isn't it?  But I suspect many more of us than we think do, in fact, live there.

UPDATE:  If you are interested in seeing the piece (it is only 14 pages) that got me called a "timid mystic," drop me an e-mail note.  I have not yet posted it on SSRN.

February 15, 2008 in Hot Topics | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Voir Dire On Captive Counsel

A request for a voir dire question that identified defense counsel with the insurance company that had retained the firm was not improper, according to a recent decision of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The court concluded that the trial judge had struck a fair balancing of competing interests in the fashioning of voir dire questions, by asking a separate question as to juror knowledge of or affiliation with the insurer:

" Although we conclude that questioning regarding a juror's affiliation or knowledge of 'Nationwide Trial Division' is a proper voir dire question in order to discover any potential bias, we are cognizant of concerns that a juror's association of a defendant's attorney with an insurer could lead a juror to assume that liability insurance is available to satisfy any verdict. While such concerns may be exaggerated and not the parade of horribles we are asked to presume in this case, we agree with a different method used which permits the identification of possible juror bias during voir dire while minimizing any potential for prejudice to insurers who choose to utilize captive counsel. As disclosed to this Court by Nationwide in its Petition for Writ of Prohibition, the Honorable James P. Mazzone, Judge of the Circuit Court of Ohio County, fashioned what we believe is a balanced approach to obtain the required information regarding juror knowledge or affiliation with Nationwide Trial Division and to minimize the potential for the jury concluding that insurance coverage is available to satisfy any verdict due to defense counsel being associated with an insurer. In Chiplinski v. Sampson, Ohio County Civil Action Number 04-C-26, a case involving a direct claim against an insured, Judge Mazzone inquired of the juror's affiliation with Nationwide Trial Division without associating Nationwide Trial Division with defense counsel's office.

            By asking separate and distinct questions, the potential for jurors to associate defense counsel with an insurance company is minimized and relevant, appropriate and necessary voir dire regarding juror bias is conducted. Such an inquiry is permissible whether captive counsel is representing an insured or defending an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. Accordingly, we now hold that where an insurance company's captive law firm is involved in a trial in the circuit courts of this State, a voir dire question disclosing the identity of the insurer with whom captive counsel is associated may be asked. The manner of identifying the insurer should be in the same manner as the captive firm otherwise identifies its affiliation with the insurer. However, in order to minimize any potential for juror bias arising from the association of captive counsel with an insurer, including any juror assumption regarding the existence of liability insurance to satisfy any potential verdict, there should be separate questions regarding captive counsel and the insurer with whom captive counsel is associated. In the instant matter, the trial court may properly ask the jury proposed voir dire question 12 provided that the phrase 'Nationwide Trial Division' is eliminated from the question. A second similar question may be asked with respect to Nationwide Trial Division such as: 'Do any of you know or have experience with Nationwide Trial Division, its attorneys, paralegals, secretaries, and other office staff, or their spouses, children, parents, brothers or sisters?' " (Mike Frisch)

February 15, 2008 in The Practice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

No Written Agreement Required To Sue Former Client

A law firm that had sued a client for over $215,000 in unpaid legal fees was entilted to judgment as a matter of law. The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department held that:

"Mintz & Gold established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on its third cause of action for an account stated, with evidence that Penny [the client] not only received and retained, without objection, invoices for legal services sent to her between November 2004 and May 17, 2005, but also made partial payments on the invoices and sent correspondence to Mintz & Gold acknowledging her obligation to pay the balance (see Landa v Dratch, 45 AD3d 646; Ziskin Law Firm, LLP v Bi-County Elec. Corp., 43 AD3d 1158; Thaler & Gertler, LLP v Weitzman, 282 AD2d 522). In opposition, Penny failed to raise a triable issue of fact. Although Penny may be entitled to indemnification, she is liable for the legal fees incurred in defending the 2003 Action (see Business Corporation Law §§ 720-726). "

The court issued a second decision involving the same parties, concluding that a written fee agreement is not required for a lawyer/law firm to assert a claim for unpaid fees. (Mike Frisch)

February 15, 2008 in Clients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Discharge For Cause

An attorney who had threatened to stop work on a matter while a motion for summary judgment was pending and opposition was due was not entitled to assert an attorneys' lien after discharge, according to a decision of the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department:

"The evidence elicited at the quantum meruit hearing showed that Curtis twice threatened to stop working on the matter while a motion for summary judgment was pending and opposition papers were imminently due. When Curtis discovered that plaintiff stood to recover a significant sum in settlement of the Zurich insurance case, it tried to coerce or pressure her into signing a new engagement agreement so the firm could receive proceeds from that settlement to continue representing plaintiff in the malpractice action. This was directly contrary to the express terms of their 2001 engagement agreement, under which payment was to be postponed until the conclusion of the action. The demand by Curtis for a new engagement agreement while opposition papers were due, coupled with the threat that it would stop working on the matter, was coercive.

The argument by Curtis that the threats were somehow excusable because the firm continued to work on the matter should be rejected since this would simply be a reward for misconduct. Curtis threatened to withdraw its services from plaintiff without good cause and for its own economic benefit, breaching the fiduciary duty owed to its client and giving plaintiff good cause to discharge her attorney. " (Mike Frisch)

February 15, 2008 in Clients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Arbitrary Geographic Considerations of Obama vs. Clinton

Posted by Alan Childress

I have reconsidered my view since my prior post, in which I had commented on The Onion's opinion about Barack Obama. 

I changed my mind and decided it is time to get past all the racial and gender politics.  Chris Matthews and Pat Buchannan keep asking ‘how the white male’ voted, and let me tell you that being treated as some stereotypic monolith hurts.  Like when the waitress just assumes I wanted Miracle Whip on my C_t_photo_webpghome_54 sandwich.  Or people in elevators start humming The Captain and Tennille and Art Garfunkel songs around me, as if I am some walking envoy of the Caucasian Cultural Coalition.   Do you have any idea what it is like when random profs at the AALS Conference ask me if I know Joe Blow who teaches at Creighton, or express surprise that I never heard of Leonardo De Vinchi, just because they are white?  Oh like we all know each other. 

I am tired of gender disempowerment as well.  With my wife, it’s all take out the garbage this, and do you have to leave your underwear on the dining room floor that, all because I am a man and am supposed to have muscles and pick up things. Hey I proved I can lift the toilet seat, isn’t that enough? 

It is better that the TV pundits are starting to pick candidates based on arbitrary geographic coincidence and not with the divisive politics The Onion proposes.  Barack Obama spent his formative years in a state or city with the word 'Kansas' in it, just like Harry Truman.  And with all due respect to David Palmer in 24 and his attracting nuclear weapons (referenced in the onion editorial), it is a fact that Kansan Harry Truman is the only one to drop them.  And Eisenhower had an affair with his military 0ksfgif driver.  Do we want a president who cheats on his wife and uses nuclear weapons?  I think not.  Worse, consider that the most recent Kansan on the ticket, Bob Dole, now touts Viagra.  I do not want a president who drops nuclear bombs and is hopped up on Viagra to have his finger on the button. 

This all speaks for the safer choice, John McCain.

February 14, 2008 in Blogging | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Flat Fee Must Be Escrowed Until Earned

An attorney who had charged a flat fee, commingled the unearned fee with his funds, and made several withdrawals was charged with misappropriation of client funds. The New Mexico Supreme Court held that non-refundable unearned fees are unreasonable and that advanced fees must be held in trust until earned. However, disbarment was not imposed:

"the evidence was sufficient to support findings that Respondent commingled his client's funds with his own and withdrew funds that he had not yet earned. The evidence may have supported a finding of wrongful intent necessary to conclude that Respondent misappropriated or converted his client's funds, but neither the hearing committee nor the hearing panel made any such finding. We defer to the hearing committee when it comes to fact-finding. Without such a finding of wrongful intent, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Respondent misused or commingled his client's funds, but did not convert them, and should be punished accordingly."

The court imposed a one-year suspension with one-year of probation on reinstatement. (Mike Frisch)

February 14, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Incidental And Temporary Contacts Not Unauthorized Practice

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has ordered the adoption of a revised rule relating to the unauthorized practice of law. Of particular interest are provisions that grant wider authority for non-admitted lawyers (not suspended or disbarred elsewhere) to participate in alternative dispute resolution matters and in matters that only touch on the District in an "incidental and temporary basis." These amendments will be of significant importance to lawyers who were previously subject to potential charges of unauthorized practice. (Mike Frisch)

February 14, 2008 in The Practice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Work Product Concerns Premature

In an appeal from the circuit court, the South Dakota Supreme Court reversed the lower court's resolution of  "the procedural question of how to protect work product and theories of the defense in contested proceedings involving defense requests for scientific testing of physical evidence." The circuit court had impropery "considered ex parte motions, briefs and affidavits" and improperly conducted ex parte hearings. The case involves two defendants charged with shooting five members of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club.

The court held that "[e]x parte communications are generally prohibited." The court must first determine if such a proceeding is appropriate and "then conduct an open hearing in which both parties can argue whether a sealed written statement may be submitted and ultimately whether the moving party has made a 'sufficient showing' to justify the discovery/testing request." As to the potential work product implications of such a procedure, defense concerns are "premature and misplaced until the parties' conflicting claims regarding access to the [car allegedly used in the crime] for testing (and the evidence's potential use at trial) are resolved in compliance with discovery statutes." (Mike Frisch)

February 14, 2008 in Privilege | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Onion Opposes Obama Because of the Movie Deep Impact

Posted by Alan Childress

A friend sent me an email linking this opinion piece in The Onion:  Do We Really Want Another Black President After the Events of Deep Impact?  Sound logic and all, here is the beginning of the argument:  the author is

...unwilling to stand idly by while our nation allows itself to be completely annihilated by another incoming comet.  Have we learned nothing from the tragic events of 1998, when, under the watch of President Morgan Freeman, this nation was plunged into chaos, and hundreds of millions of people died at the hands of the deadly Wolf-Beiderman space rock?

Comparisons to other such presidents, including David Palmer in 24, and "the huge black guy from the The Fifth Element," fare no better.  On Palmer's watch, for example, terrorists struggled no less than four nuclear bombs into the U.S.

My reponse to the author is that the choice is not made in a vacuum.  The alternative is unthinkable.  Geena Davis in Commander in Chief became a simpering mess when her teenaged daughter had a crisis Vm_cr00273273_ss90_ of dating confidence, and Geena had to cancel a security meeting with the Joint Chiefs.  And don't get me started with her indecisive method of choosing a White House chief of staff -- my husband or the black guy, the black guy or my husband?  What's a girl to do?  She then chooses Harry Lennix, so we are back to where we started:  an African American man is essentially running the country anyway.  Incoming comet anyway.  Even if she had picked the husband to be her chief of staff, hey Bill is no picnic either.

Or we can go the route of Glenn Close as VP Bennett in Air Force One.  Admittedly she was only the Vice President, or at most the President in charge only by arguable means of some arcane constitutional amendment...and only because of terrorists taking hostage the real leader Harrison Ford.  But even in that small window of opportunity when she was in charge, every camera shot of her saw a flustered and babbling woman taking orders from Dean Stockwell, who seemed totally out of place without being able to punch on a calculator to figure out where Sam would quantum leap next.  That is one disaster we can do without. 

A vote for Obama is a vote for hope -- for hope that Geena Davis will stay a quirky dog trainer, that Glenn Close can continue to flip the lamp on an off, stalking Michael Douglas.  Anything else is just a platitude.

February 14, 2008 in Blogging | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Judge Censured

The Oregon Supreme Court censured a Court of Appeals judge who had driven to chambers "under the influence of intoxicants...for which he had prescriptions because of back and leg pain." He was pulled over by police after another motorist had observed him driving erratically. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, complete a diversion program and had the charges dismissed with prejudice. No alcohol was involved. The court approved a stipulated sanction of censure. (Mike Frisch)

February 14, 2008 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dignity, Always Dignity

The Ohio Supreme Court suspended an attorney for two years, with the second year stayed on conditions, for misconduct in two matters. The first involved his representation of a client (named Bon Jovi Winbush) in a criminal case. Although not appointed, the attorney assisted in the case. When the assistant prosecutor disclosed during trial the existence of fingerprint evidence, a mistrial was declared.The attorney then filed a motion to suppress the evidence, asserting that the prosecutor "was either lying or incompetent concerning the failure to disclose the fingerprint evidence." The judge removed the lawyer from the case (he was not on the court appointment list) and appointed new counsel. The lawyer "accosted [new counsel] outside the courtroom [and according to new counsel] behaved in a threatening and intimidating manner."

He did not stop there. He appeared at a hearing in the case, disrupted the proceedings and had to be restrained and handcuffed. Off to jail, he gave a newspaper interview and was quoted: "Courtrooms get a little rough-and-tumble sometimes. A judge has to be able to accept that or pass the robe to another judge." Back in court, he offered to apologize only if he was allowed to represent Winbush.  He then accused the judge of collusion with the prosecutor. He was sentenced to and served a 40 day jail sentence.

The second matter also involved a criminal case. He perpetrated a fraud on the court concerning subpoenas and "repeatedly engaged in demonstrative and melodramatic reactions to adverse rulings and certain witnesses' testimony." He was found in contempt and qouted as saying that the ensuing fine was "nothing but retaliation on the part of the prosecutors and because they put liars on the stand." He later denied the quote.

In imposing somewhat harsher discipline than proposed, the court stated:

"The law demands that all counsel foster respect and dignity for those who administer and enforce the law. Conduct that is degrading and disrespectful of judges and fellow attorneys is neither zealous advocacy nor legitimate trial tactics. Lying to a tribunal and making false accusations against judges and fellow attornets can never be condoned. Attorneys must advocate within the rules of law and act with civility and professionalism." (Mike Frisch)

February 14, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who Is The Client?

The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently decided a case that raises questions with respect to a lawyer's duty of loyalty to a client who may have a diminished capacity. The lawyer had been hired by the client's great-niece and husband. The client was "98 years old, profoundly deaf, and largely bedridden, but continued to to live in her own home, attended by paid nurses." As the  court describes:

"Linda and Stuart Smith [the great-niece and her husband] came from their home in Georgia to stay in Mrs. Corr's home in late 1999. On December 29, 1999, they hired E. Elaine Schuster as Mrs. Corr's new attorney. This is reflected by a contract of attorney employment signed by the Smiths and Mrs. Corr. That same day, Ms. Schuster came to Mrs. Corr's home and obtained her signature on a document giving Stuart Smith a power of attorney and Linda Smith a secondary power of attorney. Ms. Schuster then demanded financial records from Mrs. Corr's step-son and from Mrs. Corr's accountant and long-time friend, Warren Crum. When Mr. Crum did not comply, he was fired and Ms. Schuster hired a new accountant for Mrs. Corr.

At this point, the Corr family and Mrs. Corr's friends were largely excluded from her life. Armed guards were posted outside of Mrs. Corr's home and security cameras were installed. Her step-son was barred from entering the home on February 16th and 17th. His sons were also prevented from contacting or visiting Mrs. Corr. However, Mrs. Corr's step-nephew, Edwin Corr (a professor at the University of Oklahoma and former United States ambassador), was allowed to enter the home to visit with Mrs. Corr on February 18th. According to him, she did not know that her step-son had tried to visit and stated that she wanted her step-son to visit and asked Edwin Corr to come again. After that, Edwin Corr was barred from further contact with Mrs. Corr.

On February 16, 2000, Mrs. Corr executed an amendment to her trust naming Stuart Smith co-trustee and successor trustee, effectively disinheriting the Corr family, and substituting Mrs. Corr's nieces as the primary beneficiaries. The Smiths and Mrs. Corr also signed a new contract of attorney employment with Ms. Schuster reflecting the change in circumstances brought about by the fact that Mrs. Corr's step-son had named Stuart Smith in a lawsuit over the power of attorney. Mrs. Corr then executed a new will on March 3, 2000, to reflect the changes in the trust amendment.

The Corr family regained access to Mrs. Corr in the beginning of March. On March 11, 2000, Mrs. Corr executed a new power of attorney in favor of Martha Garrison, who then retained a new attorney for Mrs. Corr. The district court declared on March 16, 2000, that Mrs. Garrison's power of attorney superceded Stuart Smith's. Ms. Schuster refused to accept the court's decision and, after the hearing, went to Mrs. Corr's home, insisted that she was still Mrs. Corr's attorney, and refused to leave until Mrs. Garrison fired her. Stuart Smith was also removed from Mrs. Corr's home the same day.

   After Stuart Smith and Ms. Schuster left Mrs. Corr's home, the Smiths executed a third attorney employment contract with Ms. Schuster at her office. The next day, March 17, 2000, the Smiths, represented by Ms. Schuster, successfully obtained a special guardianship over Mrs. Corr based on their representations that she was incompetent. It is unclear whether Mrs. Corr received notice of the petition for the special guardianship (the record contains nothing to indicate that she did), but the attorney retained on Mrs. Corr's behalf by Mrs. Garrison was certainly given no notice. The special guardianship rendered void the court-approved power of attorney Mrs. Corr had just given Mrs. Garrison. (There is nothing in the record to indicate whether Ms. Schuster informed the guardianship judge about the previous day's hearing and ruling on the competing powers of attorney.) Once again, the Corr family and friends were excluded from Mrs. Corr's home."

The court held that the parties that had prevailed in setting aside the trust amendment were entitled to recover attorneys' fees and costs. While the court was clearly critical of the lawyer's conduct ("In league with Ms. Schuster, the Smiths used their influence to cause Ms. Corr to change her will, a direct breach of trust"), the matter was not referred to the disciplinary counsel for investigation. Perhaps it should be. (Mike Frisch)

February 13, 2008 in Clients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Summary Judgment Improper In Title IX Suit

The Court of Appeals Division I of the State of Washington held that the superior court had erred in granting summary judgment on behalf of the University of Washington in a Title IX suit brought by a student assistant equipment manager of the school's football team. The plaintiff had reported an allegation of rape against a prominent member of the team (who is now an NFL player). The suit "alleges that the actions of UW officials following the report of the rape, deprived [the plaintiff] of her right to be free from sex discrimination in educational programs..." The court found sufficient evidence to have the claim submitted to a jury:

"it must be kept in mind that [plaintiff] seeks damages resulting only from the university's own actions. The concern in [an earlier case], that a single act of inappropriate elementary school mischief might result in liability to a public school, is not present here. [Plaintiff] did not have to be raped twice before the university was required to appropriately respond to her requests for remediation and assistance. In the Title IX context, there is no 'one free rape.' "

                                          

(Mike Frisch)

February 12, 2008 in Teaching & Curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

From The "What Was He Thinking?" File

The Mississippi Supreme Court disbarred an attorney convicted of the felony offense of sale of marijuana within a correctional facility. The buyer was the lawyer's client. The lawyer was sentenced to three years in prison and disbarred as a convicted felon. In Mississippi as elsewhere, the certified copy of the conviction is treated as conclusive evidence of the underlying conduct. (Mike Frisch)

February 12, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Young Lawyers: What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? (And Can You Repay the Loans?)

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

I have, in the past, expressed some disdain toward the victimology advocated in some quarters over the plight of very highly paid young Big Law lawyers.  The only thing yet that has given me pause to reconsider the fervency of that belief is the troubling and puzzling issue why one would incur up to $100,000 in student loan debt without at least some shot at one of those pricey jobs that would provide the basis for repaying the loan.  Nevertheless, my sense is that the Golden (or at least Silver or Bronze) Handcuffs might well be as effective as the debt in tying one to an unsatisfying career in Big Law, but that's merely reflecting my own experience.  The bigger concern is what happens to people who don't get those kinds of jobs, but incur that kind of debt.

Notwithstanding the economic pressures from whatever source, I think we have to acknowledge, however, some personal accountability for what we want to be when we grow up.  On that score, the February 2008 edition of the ABA Journal, freshly delivered to the mailboxes here in Suite 250, has an Halpern interesting pair of juxtaposed articles.  One is an excerpt from Making Waves and Riding the Currents, the memoir of Charles Halpern (left), who left the relative security of Arnold & Porter in the 60s to found the Center for Law and Social Policy, and later became the first dean of the CUNY School of Law.  The excerpt describes his decision to leave Arnold & Porter and its lifestyle (although, notably, the question of being saddled with debtSusman does not come up).  The other is a description of a week in the life of Stephen Susman (right), the founder partner of Houston's Susman, Godfrey, and a big-time Big Law lawyer (albeit an entrepreneurial one), replete with early morning personal training and dog walking in Central Park, breakfasts with George Soros, benefits, fancy lunches and dinners at posh NYC restaurants, conference calls, and prep sessions for pending hearings in which he will be up against David Boies.

Do these stories reflect the polar extremes of what we want to be when we grow up?  Is the idea of personal autonomy and accountability - that either career is achievable - a myth that collapses in the face of the present economic reality facing most of today's law students?

February 12, 2008 in Associates, Billable Hours, Law & Society, Law Firms, Partners | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How Many Violations?

If you are an ethics prof looking for an issue-spotting fact pattern for exam purposes, a recent case from the South Carolina Supreme Court may be worth reviewing. The case involves nine separate matters involving virtually every ethics violation one could imagine -- improper business transaction with client, writing himself into a client's will, filing a forged corrective deed after a real estate closing took place with an incorrect property description, several instances neglect and incompetence, escrow violations including failure to provide the bar with records, sharing escrow signatory authority with a non-lawyer, and failing to adequately supervise work with a closing services company owned by a non-lawyer. The lawyer admitted the misconduct and was disbarred. (Mike Frisch)

February 12, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)